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Fiber critical for growth in Dan River Region [Danville Register & Bee, Va.]
[February 19, 2012]

Fiber critical for growth in Dan River Region [Danville Register & Bee, Va.]


(Danville Register & Bee (VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 19--High-speed broadband infrastructure is key to future growth for Martinsville and the region, economic development leaders say.

Over the past 10 years, Martinsville expanded its Martinsville Informational Network or "MINet" to more than 20 miles of fiber optic cable throughout Martinsville and Henry County.

Because of the network's effectiveness in feeding video, voice and data streams, businesses like Faneuil Inc.'s call center have been attracted to the area, said Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins.

The local Martinsville network, which connects to the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative fiber running through the city, helped attract defense contractor SPARTA Inc.'s research center, Mehler Texnologies and American Distribution and Warehousing, added Michael Scaffidi, city telecommunications director.



"It's one of the best investments the city has made," Scaffidi said.

As the city is also the provider of Internet and telephone services using the fiber network, the network generates $130,000 annually from 30 customers for the city's general fund, Adkins said.


Currently, only businesses use the network, but Martinsville is exploring connecting the fiber to outlying communities or homes. Council members will decide on whether to pursue a business plan to determine project feasibility, she said.

"I think we need to drill more into how we can get infrastructure into our rural areas," Scaffidi said, adding many people call wanting broadband to their home.

Yet, working with MBC to get fiber to the area's industrial parks is paying off to bring jobs, especially with the announcement last year that ICF International, a Fairfax-based professional and technology services firm, would create 539 jobs in Patriot Centre, Adkins told attendees of the Southern Piedmont Technology Council's Tech Bunch for Lunch on Tuesday.

The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance is also marketing the new Martinsville-Henry County industrial park, Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre, as having "full utilities," which now means water, sewer, electric gas and fiber.

Shovel-ready sites need fiber to be competitive in today's market, said Alliance Executive Director Leigh Cockram. Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative actively markets the region's fiber-connected sites as "GigaParks." And word of the region's broadband is getting out as Yahoo! looked at the Patriot Centre in Henry County a couple years ago and Apple looked in Halifax County, Cockram said. Even though those prospects went elsewhere, Microsoft recently landed in Mecklenburg County.

"So Southern Virginia is primed to win a data center-type deal but competition is tough," Cockram said.

The regional alliance is also trying to land manufacturers, targeting food and beverage processors, aerospace, plastics and polymers and nonwoven textiles. Nineteen percent of the region's workforce is in manufacturing, she said.

Manufacturing is the primary target for the Pittsylvania County megapark. Martinsville and Henry County leaders believe its Commonwealth Crossing industrial park would be a good companion to it, like providing support vendors to the recruited industry, Adkins said.

"The city of Martinsville wholeheartedly supports the region concept for marketing our area," Adkins said. "We're stronger as a region than we are individually." Dick Ephgrave, director of the Longwood Small Business Development Center in Martinsville, hears reports of manufacturing jobs coming back and would like the region to advertise that it's ready for them.

"We have the manufacturing talent that a lot of these companies would be looking for if they brought their manufacturing back to the United States," Ephgrave said.

Bozick reports for the Danville Register & Bee.

___ (c)2012 the Danville Register & Bee (Danville, Va.) Visit the Danville Register & Bee (Danville, Va.) at www2.godanriver.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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